The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Over a Cliff

During the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, we watched as appeasement of North Korea and Iran was raised to an art form. After all—goes the conventional wisdom—isn't it better to wait patiently using "diplomacy" to defuse a dangerous state than to confront it as it moves toward weapons of mass destruction. Kicking the can down the road is a perfect political strategy—it avoids immediate problems and hard decisions (for the elites) even as it creates bigger and more dangerous problems for future politicians and peoples.

Victor Davis Hansen discusses this when he writes:
Acting crazy has worked for rogue regimes, but Western appeasement is not a long-term solution.

How can an otherwise failed dictatorship best suppress internal dissent while winning international attention, influence—and money? Apparently, it must openly seek nuclear weapons.

Second, the nut state should sound so crazy and unpredictable that it might just use them, regardless of civilization’s deterrent forces arrayed against it. Third, it must welcome being “reluctantly” pulled into nonproliferation talks to prolong the farce and allow its deep-pocket enemies to brag of their diplomatic “strategic patience” and sophistication.

The accepted logic of the rogue state is that the Westernized world is so affluent and leisured, and life is so good, that it will understandably grant almost any immediate geostrategic or monetary concession to avoid serious disruptions of the international order. The logic of appeasement is always more appeasement — especially in the one-bomb nuclear age.

North Korea sounds as if Pyongyang is an expendable hellhole, but not so Seoul, one of world’s great commercial and industrial powerhouses that exports Hyudais, Kias, Samsung, and LG appliances.

The logic is that of the proverbial crazy country neighbor, whose house and yard are a junkyard mess, whose kids are criminals, and who periodically threatens to “mess you up” unless you put up with his antics, give him attention, and overlook his serial criminality. The renegade neighbor’s logic is that you have lots to lose by descending into his world of violence and insanity, while he has nothing to forfeit by basking in it, and that such asymmetry allows him to have something on you. And it makes him something other than just the ex-con, creep, and failure that he otherwise is.
Iran is no better—suggesting, for example, that it could wipe out Israel with a single nuclear weapon—you know, the weapon that Barack Obama guaranteed Iran would have after a single decade of abiding (ha!) by the "deal" his Team of 2s put together.That would be the same deal that almost all Democrats blessed without so much as a peep.

Enter Donald Trump. To his credit, his administration has signaled that "strategic patience" is over. He has singled this is a variety of symbolic moves that make the usual "diplomacy forever crowd very nervous. To his additional credit, he has enlisted China to assist in defusing North Korea, although even with Chinese efforts, it's unlikely that any real progress will be made—unless Chinese patience truly is over.

We live in perilous times, but to suggest that all of this is somehow the fault of current politicians is dishonest. What we're seeing is the can bouncing toward the very end of the road. One can only wonder whether the end of road goes over a cliff.